I don’t find much worth watching in the wasteland of television but I do enjoy the many guises of CSI and Law & Order. My love of procedural police dramas made it pretty easy for me to review Law & Order: Justice Is Served myself, and I wasn’t disappointed. The game throws you into the character of the grumpy, smart-assed Brisco, a perfect fit for my grumpy, smart-assed self.
The premise of the game’s story is the murder of an overworked but attractive, young, female tennis star. Like a typical episode of the show, the game is filled with characters that have something to hide or an ax to grind, from an overbearing, money-hungry mother to a creepy guy that gets off on stalking female tennis players. The game is laid out like one long episode. Having never played any of the previous Law & Order games I found this to be a very good thing. Fans of the series will feel like they are a part of their own show.
OK Flatfoot, what next?
The gameplay in L&O:JIS is much like any other adventure game, which is a good and bad thing. You have a point and click interface, with a first person view. As is the norm for the genre your cursor will change if you can view or pick something up as evidence. Unlike the rest of the genre there will be no pixel hunts, a good thing in my opinion. The gameplay follows the same path that you will find in any Law & Order episode. Question witnesses, pick up evidence, rinse, repeat.
You will also need to put surveillance on the suspects and send the evidence to the lab and the research department. Both activities are crucial to solving the case and the puzzles you will find throughout the evidence gathering portion of the game.
The puzzles you will find aren’t the most difficult you will find in an adventure game, but they are enjoyable for all skill levels. Once you gather enough evidence you will have to submit a search warrant to find the rest of what you need to get an arrest warrant and move onto the trial, which is the second part of the show. Err... episode. I mean game, damn it.
Will the Defendant Please Rise.
The next portion of the game puts you in the clothes of Assistant DA (yes, you’re a woman, deal with it). Much like the show you will have to do some investigation work along with the trial so you are sure to pick the right questions, evidence and, of course, witnesses. There are additional puzzles to solve in this phase of the game to get all the evidence you need to present your case. You will have several chances to gather evidence and solve puzzles in between rounds of questioning between yourself and the defense. During the trial you can object and should do so if the situation warrants it. The developers definitely did not half-ass this portion of the game and any lawyer wannabe will be right at home here. To beat the game all you have to do is get a guilty plea. It isn’t necessary to get a 100% score to win, which is a relief to those of us with lives to lead but may frustrate gamers who have to find everything in a game to feel satisfied.
How does it look and sound, you ask?
The graphics in L&O:JIS are not Half-Life 2 quality, but they aren’t awful either. They are rather well done and all the characters are recognizable without any difficulty. The backgrounds and textures are also well done, but they are also middle of the road when compared to some adventure games like Syberia & Myst, but I have no complaints.
The cast of the show provides the voice acting in the game, so the voices are well done. The lip-synching is spotty at times, but fortunately it didn’t take much away from the overall experience. The few sound effects that can be found in the game are merely mediocre. They serve their purpose and that is all. All in all I would say the developers and designers did a great job on the overall look of the game. Using the actual cast of the show for the voice work really made a difference in making me feel like I was part of the whole thing and not just a fly on the wall.
The puzzles in the game are not easy, but they won’t have you smashing your head against your desk either. I think this is the key that makes Law & Order: Justice is Served a game that will appeal to the fans of the show as well as most adventure gamers. I have never been a fan of adventure games but I actually enjoyed this game. While it hasn’t converted me into an adventure game lover, it has made me want to play the other Law & Order games before it. To me that says the developers have done something right.